Category Archives: Partnerships

Recognize your colleagues and partners through award nominations

Photo of hands on top of one another in a team huddle with the text overtop of the hands that reads, "Recognize your colleagues and partners."

Who is the first person or group who comes to mind when you think about outstanding work and meaningful impact? Do you have someone or a group in mind? Good. We’ve got plenty of ways to recognize them at our annual Fall Extension Conference. I know you’ve seen the emails about how to nominate a person or group, but I wanted to take a minute to talk about the “why” behind the awards. Results of a survey of members of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources in the U.S. and Canada show that employee recognition is a powerful and important tool in creating a thriving climate within an organization. When we take time to value and recognize each other, it creates a foundation for collaboration, gratitude and innovation. We believe that it’s also an essential organizational practice to recognize partners who have played influential roles in our strategic initiatives. This is our way to give back to them and recognize all that they have done for us. Gratitude is key to relationship building.

One more thing I wanted to mention about award nominations – you don’t have to work on it alone. There are several questions that need thorough answers so that the committee can fully understand the breadth of the nominee’s impact, so teaming up and splitting up the work can produce a great result.

Last of all – just a friendly reminder about deadlines. Please send a quick email to msuedir@msu.edu to let us know whom you’re nominating and a sentence about why by the end of today. Miss the deadline? That’s okay, send us your idea anyway. As long as your nomination is turned in by June 1, the awards committee will be able to consider it. Happy nominating!

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Filed under Awards, Fall Extension Conference, Partnerships

MSU CEC Team treated like rock stars in Nebraska

Mark Thomas, Kay Cummings, Andy Hayes, Khurram Imam, Micah Loucks, and Frank Gublo pose for a photo in front the Loop Brewing Co. brick building.

MSU Extension Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities (CEC) From left to right: Mark Thomas, Kay Cummings, Andy Hayes, Khurram Imam, Micah Loucks, Frank Gublo. Photo courtesy of Andy Hayes.

This week, we’ll hear from Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator Andy Hayes sharing about the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities (CEC) Team’s experiences in Nebraska:

Our MSU Extension CEC Team traveled to McCook, Nebraska, to participate in the state’s first CEC conference. Patterning their conference after our successful Michigan model, the Nebraska Extension team added their own flair and expertise and created an outstanding entrepreneurship conference.

MSU Extension team members Frank Gublo, Mark Thomas, Kay Cummings, Micah Loucks, Khurram Imam and I traveled to the conference and also gave breakout session presentations on a variety of entrepreneurship topics.

Approximately 80 people from 40 Nebraska communities participated. After hearing excellent keynote speakers in the local restored vintage movie theatre, participants attended breakouts around town in a wide range of businesses such as shoe stores, coffee shops, antique furniture stores and jewelry stores.

Nebraska Extension team members were so appreciative of the multi-state partnership between Michigan and Nebraska and our coaching and guidance; and participants were grateful that we traveled all that way to attend and participate; we truly felt like rock stars. And McCook is a cool town – the perfect setting for the team’s first conference.

Some of us even ventured out to the plateau at 5:30 a.m. to watch the mating dance of the prairie chickens. (Honest, you can’t make this stuff up!) It was seriously cool, and the scenery while watching the prairie wake up with the sunrise would make anyone want to live there.

While en route, we picked up a traveling companion from the University of Minnesota Extension, which made the trip even better. We ate beef in a local restaurant in York, Nebraska, and had time to tour the Food Innovation Center on the Nebraska Campus. All were truly impressive.

A great trip, and what makes it even more perfect is that we probably learned way more from our partners in Nebraska than they did from us.

Thank you, Andy, for sharing the stories from your trip. We’re thrilled about the positive impact that you and everyone on the CEC Team are having on the people of Michigan, and we’re proud that your ideas are spreading nationally.

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Filed under Conferences, Economic development, Entrepreneurial, Partnerships, professional development

MSU Extension teams up with MDARD over baby chicks

Two baby chicks huddle together.I recently saw a T-shirt that made me chuckle. It read, “Chickens are like potato chips, you can’t have just one.” Each spring, customers flock to farm supply stores across the country for Chick Days, where live chicks are available for purchase. The adorable baby birds are tiny and cute, but many people do not know that the chicks also carry dangerous germs such as Salmonella. With a rise in salmonella cases in 2016, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension decided to work together to improve educational efforts around salmonella prevention with chick buyers in 2017. Extension educator Katie Ockert and Mindy Tape and Jamie Wilson from our communications team worked closely with MDARD on collaborative efforts that resulted in “Chick Bags.” Each bag contains a series of informative rack cards, disinfectant and cleaning brushes. More than 1,000 free bags will be distributed to chick buyers at 10 Family Farm and Home stores. In addition to helping chick buyers understand ways to prevent Salmonella contamination, the cards also provide new owners with valuable information on caring for their animals and preventing the spread of disease among their birds.

These are great guides that are worth taking a look at and sharing with any chick buyers you might know. You can find them on the MSU Extension website and at the sites below.

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Filed under Agriculture, Animal Science, communication, health, Health and Nutrition, Partnerships, Publications

Strategic Connections and Housing Education in District 12

Photo of the side of a house that is made of gray wood with a stair case in front of it. The wall of the house has a window with blue shutters. Over top of the photo is the title of the blog post "Strategic Connections & Housing Education in District 12."

This month we’re highlighting Terry Clark-Jones’ strategic connections with the Washtenaw Housing Education Partnership (WHEP) in District 12. Terry is a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension senior educator who provides programming on two work teams: Financial and Home Ownership Education, and Social Emotional Health.

MSU Extension was a founding member of WHEP in 2001, a partnership designed to bring together housing education providers. The group formed as a response to increased educational requirements of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) for their affordable housing programs.

Why is housing education important?

“For many potential first-time home buyers, the challenge is coming up with the up-front funds it takes to purchase a home,” Terry said. “It’s important to educate the consumer of the affordable housing programs available to them, such as Michigan State Housing Department Authority Down Payment Assistance, Federal Housing Authority, USDA Rural Development Loans, Habitat for Humanity and the Federal Home Loan Bank Home Ownership Opportunity program.  These programs also require that potential first-time home buyers participate in this education. Research done by Freddie Mac and NeighborWorks show that homeowners who participate in these classes are less likely to foreclose.”

Now, in 2017, the partnership is still going strong, growing from three to eight organizations: Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley, the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, POWER Inc., Housing Bureau for Seniors, the Washtenaw County treasurer’s office, the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors and MSU Extension. How it works: participants are welcomed and registered through MSU Extension, then they attend our home ownership education classes, and then they move on to the other partner organizations depending on their needs. WHEP has made affordable housing education and programs a seamless process to provide the best and most custom service to prospective buyers.

“This partnership has created many opportunities, including referrals, increased grant funding opportunities, visibility in the community and leads to new partnerships beyond housing education,” Terry said. One funding opportunity helped to create an affordable housing program in Washtenaw County. Because of the partnership, the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development received a federal grant to create a special affordable housing program in the county. It was a rehab/acquisition program where participants in a targeted income range could purchase a home and receive up to $35,000 in assistance to help with repairs and a down payment. If they stayed in the home for 20 years, the loan would be forgiven. This program lasted 18 months and helped about 30 families.

Through working with WHEP, Terry has learned that building and maintaining partnerships take a lot of work.

“Partnerships are hard to keep going and productive,” she said. “Their success can be decided by the personalities at the table. But with time and a common goal, it can be a great experience with awesome outcomes.”

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Filed under Housing, Partnerships, strategic connections

Ensuring access to high-quality programs in District 11

Photo of an adult hand holding a baby's hand in focus, blankets and pillows in the background of the shot are blurred.

Lisa Tams is a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator located at the Western Wayne County office, and she serves District 11 in the area of social-emotional health and well-being. One of the key community partners she has engaged to expand her programming is the Wayne County Third Circuit Court. For over three years, through this partnership Extension has served more than 2,500 court-ordered Wayne County families and individuals with children through parenting programs such as Kids First and Alternatives to Anger for high-conflict co-parents. The goals of these programs are to improve parental skills and knowledge in effective co-parenting, and to decrease the risk of negative outcomes in the social-emotional health and well-being of their children as they go back and forth between two homes.

Lisa and her colleagues are currently working on a large expansion of Extension’s partnership with the court to provide another community-based parent education program that will differ in scope and size from our current programs but have the same basic goals: to strengthen families and improve child well-being. Through this new initiative, Lisa and her team will work to educate and support custodial single mothers who engage not only with the Third Circuit Court but also with the Department of Human Services. Their education programs will reach custodial single mothers who seek to establish paternity and acquire the skills and knowledge to begin co-parenting with a partner who has been absent from the child and custodial parent’s life for an extended period of time. This expansion is being funded through a $389,000 annual allocation to Extension from the county, and we expect full implementation of the pilot program by late summer.  Lisa and her team are excited for this new opportunity with the Third Circuit Court to expand their important shared work of improving the lives and functional well-being of children and families throughout Wayne County.

“From my experience with the Third Circuit Court, I have learned that strategic connections are a very effective and important way to combine expertise, target resources and reduce duplication of services between organizations with the same mission,” Lisa said. “The only way to effectively meet the high need for educational and support programs for families and children in a place like Wayne County, where the need is great and the resources are scarce, is to join forces with other trusted organizations, use the unique strengths of each partner, leave self-interest out of the equation, and work toward streamlining access to high quality programs and services for the communities, families and individuals we serve.”

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Filed under health, Parenting, Partnerships, strategic connections

An apple a day, brought to you by strategic connections

With fall in full swing, hopefully you’ve had a chance to pick up some Michigan apples from your local farmers market, orchard or grocery store. Did you know that Michigan is our country’s third largest producer of apples with more than 11.3 million apple trees on over 35,000 acres (according to the Michigan Apple Committee)? That’s 825 family-run farms that produce our juicy and delicious Pure Michigan apples. Who can bring the apple industry groups and families to the table with the university to problem-solve specific needs? Michigan State University (MSU) Extension agriculture and agribusiness educators Amy Irish-Brown and Phil Schwallier.

Through their strategic connections, Amy and Phil facilitated the creation of the lab on the Ridge near Sparta to measure apple maturity indices. The Ridge is Michigan’s major apple-producing region that is located in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties. This region has the topography, soil, elevation and microclimate that are perfect for growing apples. The idea for a lab grew from a conversation Amy and Phil had on the way to a meeting about the need to closely monitor Honeycrisp and Fuji apples that had been experiencing some serious quality issues. When they pitched the idea to the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission, they received an outstanding response from the entire apple industry.

The Michigan Tree Fruit Commission responded with $50,000 in funding for the project, the Michigan Apple Committee with $15,000, and the Michigan State Horticulture Society with $20,000. Storage Control Systems responded by donating space for the lab at a value of $5,000. AgroFresh donated an automatic firmness tester (valued at $5,000) and Riveridge Produce Marketing donated the use of a quality database ($2,000). Dr. Randy Beaudry, from the MSU Department of Horticulture, donated use of a gas chromatograph ($3,000) and served as MSU specialist for this effort. When local apple growers donated fruit for testing, the lab was ready for action.

Why was there such an overwhelming response? Because Amy and Phil had formed strategic connections and relationships with the people involved in the apple industry from growers, to businesses, to campus connections.

“It’s really been a lifetime of connections that have developed and continue to develop.” Amy said. “We work with a great group of producers – they are supportive and fun. We treat everyone with respect and listen to their issues. The one-on-one connections lead to an insight into the bigger issues facing the apple industry as a whole, which best helps us help growers. Growers often just want to be growers, so sometimes, we have to make connections with media, state and federal agencies and services, commodity groups, and others to represent the interests of the apple industry for them.”

The lab has been up and running since 2015, and it provides critical real-time information to Michigan apple producers from pre-harvest through the harvest season and in post-harvest storage. Amy and Phil are able to integrate, summarize and deliver information to Michigan apple growers in concise weekly reports on apple pruning indices, nutritional impact, maturity indices for appropriate harvest, and storage indices. These reports help growers make the best real-time decisions and grow high-quality apples at a profit. Using this technology, they identify what is working well for the current year apple crop and where growers can make decisions to improve this year’s harvest outcomes.

“We have the fruit industry’s issues at heart; it is our passion.” Phil said. “To be valued, successful and admired requires knowing the people, performing tasks that address their most pressing issues, and the persistence to complete the work the growers and industry define as important. This means that ‘people skills’ is the most important characteristic an Extension person needs to have; but fruit knowledge, hard work, self-motivation and job dedication are also important. We work for the fruit industry and thus the fruit industry works for us, MSU and Michigan.”

Check out this great video created by the Michigan Apple Committee that describes growers’ relationship with MSU Extension.

Amy and Phil are a great example of strategic connections and building relationships. Have you thought about connecting with committees in your area or faculty specialists on campus? What needs to do you see in your communities that could be met by a collaboration with local businesses, companies and governmental groups?

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Horticulture, Partnerships, strategic connections

Making a difference in MSU Extension District 6: Recap of the state council visit

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel north to District 6 along with our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and AgBioResearch State Council. Shari Spoelman, district coordinator, and the crew in MSU Extension District 6 worked hard to give us a great overview of the programming, research and outreach going on in the district, and arranged for us to spend time with the people they serve.

For those of you who are new to Extension or unfamiliar with the council, we have members from all over the state who serve as a liaison between us and our county councils, field station advisory groups, and state agencies and organizations. The members come from various backgrounds: commodity group leaders, county commissioners, 4-H volunteers and farmers. We even have a meteorologist. The more they know about the work we do and the difference we make around the state, the better they can share the Extension story with our local and state decision-makers.

We began our trip with a chance to see the Kettunen Center, a conference facility owned by the Michigan 4-H Foundation. We heard about how 4-H and Extension use the center to connect with youth and volunteers. Chris Gentry, Kettunen Center director, provided us with a tour. We heard from Sara Keinath, youth development educator, and Jake Stieg, 4-H program coordinator, on the work they do with 4-H such as Mock Interview Day and 4-H Winterfest.

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Next, we traveled to B & B Farms, owned by Dan and Bonnie Blackledge, and heard about how MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center has helped them grow and market their canola seed and oil products. Jerry Lindquist, grazing and field crops educator, met us there to talk more about the relationships that MSU Extension has with specialty crop growers.

Dan and Kathy Blackledge talk about working with MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center to grow and market their canola products. Everyone stands by their house and barn.

Dan and Kathy Blackledge talk about working with MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center to grow and market their canola products.

Afterward, we visited Hidden Hills Dairy with Kathy Lee, senior dairy educator, and saw modern technology and the results of MSU Extension input at work on the farm.

State council members tour below the milking parlor where the machines send the milk.

State council members tour the milk machines below the milking parlor at Hidden Hills Dairy.

We ended the day in downtown Cadillac with Marcus Peccia, the city manager, and Carla Filkins, the mayor, to hear about their partnership with the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction; MSU Extension and the Michigan Municipal League to create a successful placemaking plan. Marcus gave us a tour to see some of the new efforts to make downtown Cadillac a place for the community to gather as part of the Heritage Plaza PlacePlan. We saw the new amphitheater, the outdoor fireplace, the park and the future location of the Cadillac farmers market.

State Council members and administrators pose for a group photograph in downtown Cadillac.

State Council members and administrators in downtown Cadillac.

On Wednesday, Jill O’Donnell, a senior agriculture and agribusiness educator who has worked with the Michigan Christmas tree industry for over 32 years, joined us as we visited the Dutchman Tree Farm in Manton. We met with Steve VanderWeide, the owner, as he shared about farm operations and his connection with MSU Extension. We learned about the soil, tree growth process and market changes that characterize this area of the state.

Next we met up with Erin Lizotte, integrated pest management educator, at Arlene Hops to learn about hops as a re-emerging specialty crop in Michigan and MSU Extension’s efforts to provide research and support. Brian Tennis from the Michigan Hop Alliance answered questions about growing hops as well as the importance of having Extension as a valuable resource in moving forward.

State Council members stand in a hops field and listen to Erin Lizotte talk about Michigan hops.

State Council members get a chance to hear from Erin Lizotte about hop growing in Michigan.

We ended our tour at the Lake City Research Center with Jason Rowntree, Kable Thurlow and Jerry for a tour of the center and a chance to learn more about their research on forage-based livestock, potato production and bioenergy crop production. Jason is an MSU faculty member and Kable is a beef educator who conduct research and outreach at the center.

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Many council members expressed how important it was to learn more about the work we’re doing in this area of the state. It was an extremely successful trip, and I’d like to send a huge “Thank you!” out to everyone who made our visit possible.

You know, the most meaningful part for me is when we meet community members and hear how MSU Extension made a difference in their lives. Nothing beats that.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, Economic development, Parks, Partnerships